The first few weeks of the baseball season always produce some big time humor. When a team like San Diego starts off 9-3, you can find columns devoted to the various different scenarios under which this team, that many predict will lose 100 games, can now contend. Of all the hot starting teams, San Diego was biggest fraud going 2-12 in their last 14. So as they continue to free fall into the abyss that is the bottom of the NL West standings, Jake Peavy‘s name will undoubtedly be rumored out by the trading deadline. They have a perfect trading partner in their counterpart division: the Texas Rangers.
No one is going to run away with that AL West, not even when the Angels get their guns back in John Lackey and Ervin Santana. So if the Rangers can hang around .500 with what they’ve got until the end of June, they should be at most a handful of games out of 1st and a piece like Peavy would be enough to make them serious contenders for that division. The Rangers have one of baseball’s deepest farm while the Padres have one of the league’s thinnest making the two virtually perfect trade partners. Moving to the American League from Petco to Arlington would all but eliminate the chances that we’d see Peavy post a sub-3.00 ERA as he has done in four of the last five seasons, but even with his slight flyball tendencies he can be a 3.85-4.00 ERA pitcher thanks in large part to a better than 1.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio he has had every year but one since 2004. His off year still featured an 8.6 rate.
According to Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein, the Padres system is the league’s 25th-best due in large part to a lack of depth while placing the Rangers 2nd behind only Oakland. Right now Peavy’s stock isn’t at a point that would command Texas’s top guys like Neftali Feliz and Justin Smoak and if it got to a point where Texas was adamant on those two, I doubt Texas would be interested. Texas is deepest at outfield and catcher while 2/3rds of San Diego’s outfield is older and Nick Hundley hardly has a stranglehold as their long-term starting catcher. Something around Engel Beltre and Taylor Teagarden with maybe a pair of second level arms is a good start. The price tag won’t be cheap because of Peavy’s very nice contract over the next four years: 2010:$15M, 2011:$16M, 2012:$17M, 2013:$22M club option ($4M buyout) (courtesy of Cot’s contracts).
Looking over Texas’s pitching stats year to date is vomit-inducing so Peavy alone won’t make them playoff contenders. They appear to be easing Derek Holland into the rotation Johan Santana-style, which is a move I love. Hopefully he is ready to be a contributor every 5th day by late-June, early-July. Meanwhile one of Matt Harrison and Brandon McCarthy has to not suck all year especially because I can’t envision Kevin Millwood maintaining his 2.78 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. Though he will at least remain effective if he continues to be ultra-stingy with the free passes (1.6 BB/9 thus far).
Peavy is the kind of starting pitcher that Nolan Ryan wants in the organization which is another reason why I could see them trading for him if they are within striking distance around the All-Star break. It’s a move that makes complete sense on both sides, not necessarily the exact pieces I mentioned, but just a trade in general. The Padres are going cheap and they have shopped Peavy before, while the Rangers are an up and coming team in an easy division that could get a legitimate ace without depleting their embarrassment of riches at the minor league level.